Domestic Violence Awareness Month, held in October, unites advocates across the nation in their efforts to end domestic violence. Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, goes beyond physical assaults; it includes emotional, financial, sexual and medical abuse. An abusive partner uses isolation, threats, intimidation, and violence to control their partner. Barriers, such as fear, financial issues, children, and cultural or religious beliefs, make it difficult to leave an abusive relationship. These relationships have the potential to impact the victim’s health, including, but not limited to, injuries, gastrointestinal issues, asthma, chronic pain, sexually transmitted infections, depression, and anxiety.
If you, or someone you know, is in a domestic violence relationship and need help, call 2-1-1 Maryland to be directed to local resources or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Both are free, confidential, and available 24/7.
Submitted by Audrey Bergin, MPH, MA Founder & Manager, Domestic Violence (DOVE) Program at Northwest Hospital.
On the October 16th edition of WMAR 2 News Midday Maryland show, Dr. Farheen Qurashi, a trauma & surgical critical care attending surgeon at Sinai Hospital and member of Violence Prevention committee for EAST, and Amanda Millir, Domestic Violence Intervention Specialist at University of Maryland Medical Center, talked about Intimate Partner Violence in honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Click here to read about their interview with Midday Maryland’s host, Elsa.
In their interview, Dr. Qurashi and Amanda Millir highlighted that victims of intimate partner violence can be both men and women or gender non-conforming individuals. They also explained that domestic violence includes more than just physical abuse; it can be emotional, psychological, financial and sexual as well.
Dr. Qurashi explained why, during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise in domestic violence, although there has been no concrete data reported, to date. She explained that isolation is a huge component of domestic violence. Covid-19 has forced individuals to isolate themselves, both physically and socially, leading to domestic violence victims being stuck in the home with their abusers, with little to no opportunity to access their usual outlets outside of the home. Domestic violence is about power and control. As Dr. Qurashi explained in the interview, individuals have no control over their external environments due to the pandemic. As abusers feel this loss of control in their life, their need for control over their partner increases, which exacerbates the violence that is occurring in the home.
Amanda Millir shared how her personal story, as a survivor of domestic violence, influences the work that she does with victims in The Bridge Program at UMMC. She shared that she draws on her lived experiences, to guide her in working with the various systems that a victim may go through, when leaving their abuser. As a survivor of domestic violence, she tells other victims that there is hope and that they too can get through this.
How can you help an individual in a domestic violence situation? The experience of an abusive relationship is traumatic and those individuals should be able to confide in others for support as they determine their next steps in being safe. One way to provide support is through emotional support, such as acknowledging their situation is difficult, no judgement, help to create safety plan, and offering to go and support them in seeking out a domestic violence program/service. Another way to provide support is through material support, such as helping to identify a support network, encouraging them to participate in activities outside their relationship, and encouraging them to talk to providers who can further help and guide them.
Visit your local trauma center for more information on their Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence Programs or local resources available to you.
Creason Schafer, BS, CHES, CPST
Community Outreach Specialist in Injury Prevention
Johns Hopkins Children’s Center